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232                           LIFE OP
several skulls and one complete skeleton.* They
parted in solemn silence from this mysterious ceme-
tery; it was a fine and cool night, the moon, sur-
rounded by coloured rings, stood high in the air, and
illuminated the mist which, cloud-like covered the
surging river. Innumerable insects radiated a reddish
phosphorescent light over the plants, which glowed
with living fire. Climbing bignonias, odorous vanillas,
and golden banistorias, ornamented the entrance to
the cave,—over the dead the summits of the palm
trees rustled.
The catholic missionary of Sail Fernando had
-brought his Indians to the shores of the Guaviare, on a
hostile expedition, which was, in reality, a chase of
human beings, equally opposed to the laws of religion
and humanity, and to those of the Spanish govern-
ment. On this unchristian expedition, a mother with
three children, of which two were yet infants, were
found in an Indian hut. They were occupied in the
preparation of Manioke flour; the father was fishing,
and could, therefore, not defend his family from the
hostile man-hunters and Christian oppressors. The
mother endeavoured to escape with her children, but
had scarcely reached the savannah when she was
overtaken by the man-hunters of the mission., she and
her children pinioned and dragged to the shore. The
missionary was watching the success of the enterprise
from his boat. If the mother had made a violent
resistance,, she would have been cut down by the kid-
nappers, for everything is permitted in the missions,
when they go out "soul catching/' They always
prefer to take children and rear them as slaves to the
Christians.
The mother was brought to San Fernando with her
children; they hoped she would not be able to find
* Blnmenbach subsequently cast one of these skulls, but the skele-
ton was lost In, the before-mentioned shipwreck.